- Associated Press - Thursday, January 5, 2017

DENVER (AP) - Tony Parker likes to get his big men involved right out of the gate, just to get them in an early flow.

It worked all those years with Tim Duncan before he retired. Now it’s working with LaMarcus Aldridge.

Aldridge scored 28 points, including 11 while sparking a third-quarter spurt, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Denver Nuggets 127-99 on Thursday night.

“It’s great when we establish L.A. like that. Feel like he’s gaining confidence,” Parker said. “I don’t know, it feels like the last three or four games, he’s getting in a great rhythm.”

Kawhi Leonard added 24 points, while Parker had 21 and a season-high nine assists for the Spurs, who improved to 17-3 on the road this season. Parker shot 10 of 11 from the field.

“Tony was vintage T.P.,” Aldridge said.

Aldridge helped San Antonio pull away in the third quarter by knocking down a flurry of mid-range jumpers and hook shots. He has reached double figures in 30 of 33 games this season.

Parker’s mission now is straightforward: Get Aldridge to shoot even more. He made 11 of 18 from the field.

“He’s a great shooter, a great scorer,” Parker said. “When he plays like that, it forces double-teams and makes everybody’s job easier.”

Nikola Jokic had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Denver, which dropped its fourth straight. The Nuggets hit their first 10 shots from the floor, but couldn’t gain any separation from the Spurs.

“They just kept scoring and got stops and we did the opposite,” Wilson Chandler said.

San Antonio entered fresh off a 110-82 win over Toronto on Tuesday. It was a game in which the Spurs made the Raptors look “like a JV team,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said before Thursday’s game. “They have that kind of talent. They have that chemistry. … I just hope we rise to the challenge.”

But the Nuggets couldn’t match San Antonio’s intensity and had no answer for all of its scoring options.

“Losses in general but losses when you feel like you’re defeated, it’s definitely hard to swallow,” Chandler said. “We’ve got to figure out some way to get out of it and it’s going to be on the defensive end.”

Speaking of defense, Malone called out his team’s defensive intensity the other night. His message didn’t appear to register.

“Some guys may be in denial and some guys may be, ‘Hey, Coach is right,’” Malone said. “There’s 127 points on the board. Call me a liar if you want, I look at all the numbers and when you’re ranked 30th in defensive efficiency, it is what it is. Our offense has been pretty good overall, but you want to win in the league, be a competitive playoff team, you better defend.”

TIP-INS

Spurs: Pau Gasol had 17 points and a team-high nine rebounds. … Asked what turned the game in the second half, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich simply said: “We played better. We played defense. We made shots. We didn’t turn it over.” … The Spurs had 34 assists.

Nuggets: F Kenneth Faried missed the game with a sore lower back. … F Danilo Gallinari drew a technical for arguing a call in the third quarter. … Jokic dished out five assists. No surprise, since he’s one of the top passers among centers this season. … Denver was outrebounded by a 41-38 margin.

SORRY, GUYS

Malone apologized to his veteran players for calling them out for a lack of leadership following a loss to Sacramento on Tuesday.

“I let my frustrations after that loss get the best of me,” he explained. “If I have issues with our veterans, I’ll address it with our veterans 1-on-1, to try and resolve whatever issues there may be.”

SCARY THOUGHT

Aldridge thinks this Spurs team hasn’t reached its full potential yet.

“We still have work to do,” he said. “It’s looking more promising now. Guys are definitely getting more comfortable.”

UP NEXT

Spurs: Host the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday.

Nuggets: At the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday.

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